Charging leader would create political crisis, observers say Kuomintang chairman Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday he is confident he will not face prosecution for alleged embezzlement despite reports he could be charged before key mayoral elections next month. Observers said that if Mr Ma was charged it would create a political storm that would not only affect the KMT, but also drag about 6,500 senior officials, including Vice-President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien, into a whirlwind. 'I have full confidence in my integrity and I also have high expectations [of] the judicial authorities,' said Mr Ma, the leader of Taiwan's largest opposition party. Mr Ma, who is also Taipei mayor, was responding to reports that prosecutors were likely to charge him over the alleged embezzlement of special expenses allocated to him each month to pay for public affairs. Mr Ma has twice been questioned by prosecutors over allegations he had embezzled half of the NT$340,000 (HK$80,900) monthly expenses allocated to him for public use and that he had knowingly allowed his secretary to use receipts from others to account for the other half of those expenses in the past three years. Local media, quoting unidentified prosecutors, said the authorities were likely to charge Mr Ma. KMT lawmaker Joanna Lei Chien alleged yesterday that 'those from the top', including the cabinet and Presidential Office, had demanded that prosecutors indict Mr Ma before December 9, when Taipei and Kaohsiung hold elections for mayors and city councillors. She said the indictment of Mr Ma before the elections would help ease pressure on candidates representing the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, who have been indirectly affected by a string of corruption scandals involving President Chen Shui-bian and his family. Mr Ma declined to comment on the news reports or on Ms Lei's claims. He also declined to comment on a call by a former DPP lawmaker for him to step down. Ju Gao-jeng, who quit the DPP to form a political party of his own, said in a letter published by the main local newspapers that if Mr Ma stepped down as KMT chairman, it would increase pressure on Mr Chen, who has refused to resign despite protests by his opponents. Mr Chen, who has survived three opposition-initiated recall motions since June, has come under increasing pressure to resign after his wife, Wu Shu-chen, was indicted on November 3 on charges of corruption and document forgery. Prosecutors said they also had enough evidence to charge Mr Chen with the same crime, but spared him for now due to his presidential immunity. 'I have read his letter this morning,' was Mr Ma's comment on Mr Ju's call. Observers and local media said that if Mr Ma was charged, he would have to step down as KMT chairman in line with party regulations. That would create political turbulence within the KMT, especially as Mr Ma is the opposition's best chance for the 2008 presidential elections. It would also send big aftershocks through the political establishment as KMT lawmakers would demand that all 6,500 officials, including the vice-president, be investigated over their use of the special expenses allocated to them to pay for public affairs. The lawmakers have faulted the special expenses system, whose ambiguous rules on the use of funds have been seen as the reason why Mr Ma is in this predicament.